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Old Crosstown Expressway beams find homes throughout Oklahoma

Reusing the steel beams from the elevated Oklahoma City roadway is one of the largest public works recycling projects in the country.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: July 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: July 15, 2013

McClain County bridge

McClain County District 2 Commissioner Wilson Lyles said the beams helped expedite replacing a one-lane, wooden bridge over an unnamed creek on 240th Street about two miles east of Washington.

School buses no longer could be driven on the structure, built in 1940, because it couldn't support their weight, he said. Farmers couldn't drive wide farm equipment across the narrow bridge. It had a weight limit of 5 tons; two of its wooden girders were split.

“This was one of the first bridges we knew (to replace) once we heard the Crosstown beams were coming back to the county,” Lyles said.

He used six beams for the 40-foot-long bridge; using the Crosstown beams saved the county about $20,000 on the project, Lyles said.

“With that $20,000, we were able to put that toward other projects or even put that toward another bridge.

“You come from a one-lane bridge to a 24-foot-wide bridge, and with the agricultural activity in the area, the people are able to cross their equipment, so it's a great convenience. Once you lose a bridge in a certain part of the county, it's like that part of the county just dies. These bridges are important to rural areas.

“Even though you may just have a few residents out here, they're just as important as those folks in town. This bridge is as important to these people as the new Crosstown is to the folks in Oklahoma City.”

State's poor ranking

The Crosstown beams are intended to help counties replace unsafe and structurally deficient bridges.

A study by the Transportation for America group last month ranked Oklahoma as having the second-largest share of deteriorating bridges, with 22 percent of its nearly 24,000 bridges considered deficient. The national average was 11 percent.

State highway bridges make up about 6,800 of the nearly 24,000 bridges in the state; in 2005, 17 percent of the state bridges, or 1,168, were considered structurally deficient. Data from the report show that in 2012 the number of structurally deficient bridges was reduced to 556, or 8 percent, of the state bridges.

Poor county bridges harm the state's ranking.

County bridges number 14,164 and make up about 60 percent of the state's bridges, said Randy Robinson, executive director of the Oklahoma Cooperative Circuit Engineering Districts Board. Of those, 4,414 are deficient and 502 are obsolete. Replacing those bridges is estimated to cost $1.5 billion.

“We hope to knock off about 300 of them with these beams,” he said.